It’s a situation Chot Reyes is approaching with extreme caution.
Though grateful that he has the PBA’s full backing for the Asian Games later this year, the Gilas Pilipinas head coach still couldn’t afford to be complacent given the differing rules the continental meet offers in almost every edition.
“Of course, we’re very thankful for the continued support that the PBA is lending to the program. But like I said, I approach it with a lot of caution because I’ve been here already before,” he told reporters Saturday.
Speaking from experience, Reyes recalled the 2014 Asiad in Incheon, South Korea, where the Philippine team’s medal bid suffered a massive blow when naturalized center Andray Blatche was not allowed to suit up.
Gilas, at that time, was all set to roll with the ex-BVA cager following a promising FIBA World Cup campaign, until the Incheon Asian Games Organizing Committee used the Olympic Council of Asia’s rule on naturalized athletes.
OCA rules say that naturalized athletes should be residing in the country for three consecutive years before being allowed to represent. Blatche was only granted Filipino citizenship in June 2014 — two months before the Worlds.
The Filipino dribblers settled with Marcus Douthit instead and ended up in a seventh place with a 3-4 record — the country’s worst Asiad finish.
“We have to find out first: ano ba talaga ‘yung rule ng Asian Games? Paiba-iba kasi e, every Asian Games, depending on the host iba ‘yung rules on eligibility, ‘di ba. We have to find that out,” said Reyes.
“Are we going to bring essentially the same team, or can we bring different players? That’s the question mark right now. ‘Yan ang ‘di natin alam.”
Asked about the likelihood of Gilas’ composition for the September 23-October 8 competitions, the veteran internationalist believes that it should be ‘hybrid’ just like the national pools for the World Cup Qualifiers.
Still, it would be hard to determine as much since they have to know what the eligibility rules would be for the Games set in Hangzhou, China.
“I think, based on what happened in the past, it should be hybrid. I think after the rigors of the World Cup, A lot of the players will have to rest, rest their bodies. But again, hindi mo masabi,” said Reyes, also Gilas’ program director.
“It will [also] depend on how the players feel at that particular time. I know when we were going to the Asian Games the last time, the players were really excited until we lost Andray. We’ve got the news na hindi pala pwede si Andray,” he recalled.
“We felt we were so prepared with Blatche and then, biglang nawala. It was a huge blow. We have to learn from that. We have to be prepared for whatever the organizing committee’s eligibility rules are going to be.”